Monday, March 28, 2005

Finding Susie Beans: Ch. 6. Disappointment!

The story thus far: we meet Oliver Grendall, America's eminent cat (and grudgingly respected by most countries in Europe); little Lucy's beloved doll, Susie Beans, has been stolen; the clues lead to a particular seat in Fenway Park; Oliver and Cool Jay have a run-in with two very bad cats; our heroes now find themselves on the Fenway lawn in the middle of a baseball game!

The crowd was stunned into silence for a moment and Cool Jay and I felt every pair of eyes trained on us. All action on the playing field stopped. My companion and I surveyed the stands. Never in my life had I ever beheld such a sight! Multitudes upon multitudes of people, people beyond number! It was a curious thing that, at that one moment, I was struck by the sheer infinite variety of people I saw all around us, could feel their distinctions, their many personalities, and yet also had the strong sense of them all merging into one great organism, speaking in one vast, guttural, sonorous voice, capable of only one simple feeling or one desire at any given instant. The crowd was a monster open only to the most basic of sensibilities, and yet composed of the most complex creatures on earth!

Soon we heard laughter and some applause. The monster showed amusement and approbation. A door close to us in the green wall that encompassed the park (which, as it traveled around the field, was sometimes low and, at other points, very high indeed) opened and several of the Fenway Park security staff issued from it and approached us. Above the swelling din of the monster Cool Jay and I could hear their walkie-talkies crackling.

“What should we do?” asked Cool Jay.

“Our way doesn’t lie back where we came,” I said, thinking of Max and Scratchmo. “I propose we head to the opposite side of the ball park and regain the seating area there.”

Then we heard one of the security staff, who was getting uncomfortably near, say, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty!”

“Let’s go!” I cried, and away we flew!

It’s an interesting thing that, while one is caught up in an emergency, with the adrenal glands working to maximum capacity, and with fear and self-preservation applying an indefatigable whip to one’s own efforts to escape and avoid calamity, causing his pulse to race and his eyes start out of his head; it is an interesting thing, I say, that through all of this there can be an odd sort of detachment that takes place, as if the creature whose very life may be in peril can, at the same time, act as a disinterested observer and coolly take in his predicament and his environment. As the security staff in their white shirts and khaki pants pursued us, and as Cool Jay and I ran for dear life, I noticed the ballplayers standing there in their pure white, unwrinkled uniforms, seeming to enjoy the spectacle. Their physiques, I could see, were well above the average for their species. The idea of racehorses forced its way into my head, for they are creatures bred, trained and groomed for a certain sport as I imagined these ballplayers to be. And then I could notice, as Cool Jay and I circled back at one point, that high atop one corner of the park there sat an enormous video screen and was surprised to see the image of two cats — one a bright orange — scurrying madly about on a field of green, approaching a circular area of dirt.

It was soon after that when I had an encounter with one of the ballplayers, the person who, I learned later, played second base. We had paused for a moment on the infield dirt, having temporarily outdistanced our pursuers and in desperate need to catch our breath, when this particular ballplayer advanced toward me. He smiled kindly and held out the hand not covered with a baseball glove and said, “C’mere fellah. C’mon,” and then made some coaxing sounds that many providers use to summon their pets. I was transfixed for the moment, because the effect was like Michelangelo’s David suddenly begging your pardon for directions to the nearest restroom. I sensed he meant well, and I also sensed he meant to capture me, and that was something I couldn’t let happen.

Reader, consider this for a moment: here was a human being who was among the paragon of his race as far as athleticism and strength goes. He had talent, skill, training, and was at the peak of physical conditioning. His livelihood relied on the marvelous things he could make his body do that most other men couldn’t. He excelled in speed and quickness, hand-eye coordination, and all else that goes into the making of a professional athlete. And on the other side there was myself, a cat perhaps one-tenth his size, one who could barely climb a tree and who couldn’t, if his life depended on it, catch an old, crippled bird or a three-legged chipmunk. Put this way, how would anyone rate my chances? And yet it was astonishing with what ease I defeated him! First I feinted one way and he did the same; then I feinted the other way and so did he; then I made a flurry of quick movements that left him not knowing what to do; and finally, when I detected the faintest trace of his leg muscles tightening in preparation for a rush, I leaped to my left as he sprang forward and easily eluded his grasp, leaving him face first in the dirt!

The crowd laughed and cheered and applauded. The great monster that populated the stands was enjoying Cool Jay’s and my performance. The stadium security staff, however, was showing increased determination to put an end to it. During my encounter with the second baseman, the amount of security personnel on the field had trebled and were now approaching Cool Jay and I from all sides. It looked like they had more organization for our capture than was shown before, using a sort of encirclement strategy. The way they were positioned, I could see that my idea of dashing to the direct opposite side of the field would be very difficult. Then I heard Cool Jay exclaim: “Section 19!”

That was the section marked on the ticket stub. “Where? Where?” I asked.

“There! underneath all that netting!”

I saw it at once. “All right, Cool Jay, this is what we’ll do,” and I related to him the two simple stratagems I had in mind.

Our pursuers continued to advance on us, tightening the circle. A couple of them, I noticed, had nets. Certainly we needed to keep clear of them! I gestured to Cool Jay toward a particular direction and suddenly cried, “Run!” Together, he and I dashed toward one of the group, a smallish man with a light beard, who first seemed surprised that we should concentrate our efforts on him and then reacted by crouching to grab one of us. As he did this, Cool Jay and I immediately peeled off in opposite directions and ran directly through the legs of the people standing to either side of him! So far so good. We picked up our speed, rejoined each other and made generally for where Section 19 lay, with the security personnel running after us. Some, I knew, would be faster than the others, and it was they who worried me the most.

“Remember: run past our mark!” I called to Cool Jay.

We approached the low green wall and veered a little to the left of the spot we meant for our target. As I predicted, by this time there were three men who broke from the pack and were very close to us, with one shouting orders to the others like a barking dog. Cool Jay and I sped another five feet and then I yelled, “Stop!”

Cool Jay and I came to a halt instantaneously. Chipmunks and squirrels are better at this, but cats are very good at completely arresting their momentum in no time at all. Humans, on the other hand, are rather poor at this, and my expectation of it did not fail me here. We stopped, but those three hottest on our tracks flew by us at top speed, saw their mistake, and skidded and stumbled over each other some ten feet away in a jumble of flying clods of dirt and flailing legs. Wasting no time, Cool Jay and I quickly wheeled about, made directly for our intended spot and bounded over the wall.

The crowd was in an uproar at all of this! There was applause everywhere! Congratulatory shouts rained down upon us: “Way to go, cats!” “That’s showing them!” “You outsmarted them!” “That’s how to kick some butt!” Rather than impede our progress, the people stepped aside for us and cheered as we located the box and then headed up the stairs for the row marked on the ticket. Each row was identified by a double alphabet marked on the aisle steps and we read them off as we flew: DD, EE, FF, and so on.

“Here it is, Mr. Grendall!” shouted Cool Jay. Our row! We took a right into it and read the seat numbers as we hurried on while hopping over the feet of their occupants: two, three, four, five . . . ah! six!


Six was empty!

We gaped at the seat in astonishment. Number six wasn’t just momentarily vacant, it had never been sat in! The nearly empty beer cup on it, surrounded by a clumps of peanut shells, told us as much. Empty! I had never imagined that a seat costing so much could be left unoccupied! I knew a thing or two about the value of money and this was the egregious squandering of it! Cool Jay and I looked at each other. We had come all this way and risked so much!

There was a long pause during which we both stood there thunderstruck. It seemed so unfair! At length Cool Jay said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Grendall, but we should go. I don’t think they’ll let us alone much longer.”

“But how can this be?” I asked.

“We can’t stop and think about it now, sir. We’ve got to leave!”

I could see a couple of ushers in red coats and blue hats making their way toward us. Cool Jay was right, we had to go. We could swallow this bitter pill at our leisure.

The reader might well ask what we meant to do had the culprit been sitting there at that moment. I must confess I only had only vague ideas, trusting more to my wits and improvisation to carry us through than anything else. The best case (which surely was too much to hope for) would have been to recognize the thief and know him to be someone who lived in our neighborhood. The next best scenario, had we not identified him, involved extracting information from him about his address. Probably that would have meant lifting his wallet for his driver’s license, but we wouldn’t have scrupled breaking the law in the interest of reuniting little Lucy with her cherished doll; in fact, I rather felt there was some added measure of justice in that. And then, if that failed, there was the possibility of following this person home, although how we would have accomplished it is something I can only guess at. If he drove a car, we would have had to board it somehow without his knowing. If he used public transportation — well, we knew now what complications that course of action presented, but we would have just had to manage it. The whole idea in the end was to find out where he lived and, through such means as we could devise, discover where Susie Beans was hidden and snatch her back.

But this! What a terrible setback!

“Mr. Grendall!” Cool Jay urged.

The ushers were coming much nearer now and, as their intention of grabbing us seemed obvious to all, they took quite a berating from some of the fans. It was clear that Cool Jay and I were viewed as something like heroes, and the fans’ sympathies were all with us. One man near us tried to pick Cool Jay up, but I think it was only to pet him. Cool Jay wisely slunk back and didn’t let him. “Look at how they sit there staring at the seat!” said someone nearby. “ Maybe they’ve got a ticket for it!” said someone else.

“All right. Let’s go,” I said to Cool Jay.

We picked our way through the seats heading in the opposite direction of the ushers. We could plainly see where one of the exits was that led down into the concourse and made our way toward it. There was a lot of calling to us from all sides as we went along, a lot of “Kitty, kitty, kitty!” but no one hindered us. We gained the ramp and walked down it with the air of paying customers who had every right to be there.

“Well,” I said, “I suppose the only thing to do is to try this again another day.” An unhappy thought indeed!

We turned left coming off the ramp and I immediately bumped into something furry and large. I instantly knew what it was, but given all we had been through, my mind seemed unwilling to register it properly. I sighed inwardly. Could bad luck be so persistent?

“Gremmel!” said a familiar voice from off to my left. “Where you been?”


Next chapter: Ex Deux Machina


Blogger NYPinTA said...

Aw! Poor Oliver Grendell! LOl!

I especially liked this: "Their physiques, I could see, were well above the average for their species." Um, social commentary on the current situation in baseball maybe? ;) LOL!

12:24 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

You got it! Very astute, NYP!

1:25 PM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

What's 'astute'? :P

12:02 PM  

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